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Hives - Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

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Summary about Hives

Simply put, hives are itchy welts on the skin. They can show up anywhere on the skin and vary a lot in size, from the size of pen tips to that of platters. Multiple hives can also connect on the skin to make bigger welts.

Usually hives disappear in about 24 hours and new ones might show up. This is how they can persist for some days. Nevertheless, one bout of hives does not carry on for more than 6 weeks. The medical community calls them acute hives. On the other hand, chronic hives are the ones that carry on after the 6 week mark.

The medical community refers to hives as urticarial. As these welts start appearing more deep under the skin, they are then called angioedema by the medical community. The same might happen with regards to hives and it leads to the eyelids and lips swelling up.

Symptoms of Hives

The most typical symptoms are:

  • Pinkish or reddish swellings that are slightly raised. Might occur on the same spot, or on different areas of their body
  • Welts that might appear alone or might appear in a cluster. They could also connect together to form a much larger welt
  • Swollen skin that disappears in less than 24 hours in one area. The swelling might show up at another area of the skin
  • Itching on the swollen area
  • Swollen patches that might hurt or sting as well

Causes of Hives

Allergic hives appear when the smaller blood vessels leak blood plasma into the skin when they encounter histamine. Allergic reactions to things like food chemicals, insect bites, exposure to sun or to certain drugs cause the histamine release from the specialized cells situated near the skin’s blood vessels. Finding out the cause is often nearly impossible.

There is one other cause of hives, or simply one factor that might worsen the symptoms: stress. Research has linked low family support, sleeplessness and stress to hives. Scientists have tried to explain this phenomenon by saying that stress can lead to inefficient functionality of the body. According to them, the body might have an inflammatory reaction to the physiological changes caused by stress.


Risk Factors of Hives

One factor that places individuals at risk includes their susceptibility to allergies. Those who are on medication are also at a higher risk for the progression of hives along with those who are exposed to chemicals that they are allergic to, without them even knowing it. These things might be included in food or pollen. If the person is already infected or has a medical issue, their susceptibility to develop hives is elevated as well.

Preventive Measures of Hives

Simple lifestyle changes can greatly reduce the risk of developing hives from occurring or reoccurring in the future. Proper relay of information of what the individual is allergic to is crucial from the person to the doctor. That way the doctor could provide the person with a list of what to avoid in order to prevent hives. Furthermore, allergy shots are another way that future occurrences of hives could be avoid 

One should also avoid areas where there is more humidity or should not wear clothes that are too tight, especially if they have had a recent outbreak of hives.


Types of Hives

The following are the two types of hives (or urticarial):

  • Acute urticaria. The most recurrent type of urticarial is acute. The symptoms do not carry on after 6 weeks. They generally affect any of the body parts like the face, neck, fingers and toes, and the genitalia, as well, in males.
  • Chronic urticarial. This type of hives carries on for more than 6 weeks. However, its rate of incidence is far lower than acute urticarial. About 0.1% of the population is estimated to develop symptoms of this type.